At Whipton Barton Federation, we believe that high-quality History lessons inspire children to want to know more about the past and to think and act as historians. Children in our Reception classes begin to learn the concept of History as they develop an awareness of past events in their own lives. Throughout the year they remember special events such as their birthdays and other significant times such as celebrations at Christmas, Easter, Bonfire Night and Eid. Children are introduced to the concept of a timeline as they look closely at how things change over time including plants, animals and the chronology of their own lives by thinking about how they are changed since they have been born. In our ‘Emergency’ topic at the beginning of the year we look and discuss how emergency vehicles have changed over time. We look closely at pictures and discuss together what we can see that is the same or different and what are the main changes that have occurred over time. For example, when looking at pictures of different fire engines we discovered that people used to have to push them to the fire and then pump the water onto the fire using small buckets. Pictures and objects from the past often fascinate children in the Early Years and offer them a chance to understand the concepts of change and continuity.
The History curriculum in Key Stage One and Key Stage Two seeks to give pupils a solid foundation and broad overview in some of the most important periods, events and themes in British and world history. It is comprehensive but necessarily selective. The curriculum gives pupils a strong grounding in British history and in Key Stage 2, is taught chronologically from the first settlements through Roman Britain, the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, the mediaeval period and up to the Industrial Revolution and touching on Britain during the two World Wars. While studying these periods the units explore themes of change and continuity, perspective and power. The units exploring world history have been carefully selected to provide global coverage and introduce a number of themes. In Year 3, the unit on Ancient Greece introduces key ideas around power and its legitimacy. The Shang Dynasty gives insight into the progress and achievements in China at a time when there was much less occurring in Europe. Whilst in Year 4, children develop their knowledge of Roman Britain before studying the Anglo-Saxons and Scots and ending with the Vikings. In Year 5, the unit on the Benin Kingdom challenge the narrative often prevalent in the teaching of African history – celebrating a highly successful civilisation while introducing the slave trade. Finally, in Year 6, the unit on Civil Rights examines the way black people have been treated in the USA, through the Civil Rights movement and Dr King, right the way to the Black Lives Matter movement. By bringing pupils up to the present day – in the case of Civil Rights and the Middle East – the curriculum demonstrates the importance of past events in shaping the world of today.
Throughout the curriculum, connections and comparison are made between events and individuals: the unit on the industrial revolution exploring the Great Reform Act by taking pupils from the Magna Carta through the changing seat of power in England over the subsequent six hundred years. Pupils are taught the substantive content which defines each period. This knowledge is meticulously planned and regularly revisited and elaborated upon. More abstract concepts, too, are carefully developed so that pupils gain an increasingly sophisticated understanding of, for example, kingship or empire.
However, it is not only substantive knowledge that is taught. The disciplinary skills of history, such as source analysis, interpretation, perspective, continuity and change are all explicitly taught and practised. Children then apply these skills and knowledge by writing an essay at the end of each unit. In Key Stage 1, children recall significant facts and answer key questions; in Lower Key Stage 2, this progresses into longer Information Texts; in Year 5, children write a persuasive argument; and in Year 6, children write a balanced argument based on what they have learnt.
The curriculum is deliberately ambitious. It challenges pupils to make connections across time and place and sets up pupils for, we hope, a lifelong love and understanding of an important subject, while providing a foundation of understanding that will make them curious, active citizens of this country and the world.
We develop children with the following essential characteristics to help them become historians:
- An excellent knowledge and understanding of people, events and contexts from a range of historical periods, including significant events in Britain’s past;
- The ability to think critically about history and communicate ideas confidently to a range of audiences;
- The ability to support, evaluate and challenge their own and others’ views using historical evidence from a range of sources;
- The ability to think, reflect, debate, discuss and evaluate the past by formulating and refining questions and lines of enquiry;
- A respect for historical evidence and the ability to make critical use of it to support their learning;
- A desire to embrace challenging activities, including opportunities to undertake high-quality research across a range of history topics;
- A developing sense of curiosity about the past and how and why people interpret the past in different ways.